“You’re Hispanic but you’re like, white?!”- Everyone ever.
When you look at me, it is easy to assume I am of some kind of hispanic heritage. What with my brown curly hair and tan skin, anyone would think so. But, it’s when you get to talking and hanging out with me that my Ecuadorian side is apparently out the window. What I mean by this is that I have always been told that I “don’t act hispanic” and am instead more in touch with my European side. What exactly does this mean? Is it something to be offended by or be proud of?
Being both Ecuadorian and French, I have firsthand experience with the constant struggle of finding a balance between both sides of who you are. My mother was born in Ecuador and moved to the US at a young age. My father is of French- Creole descendants and was born and raised in Louisiana. To top it off, they’re both Deaf! Talk about an interesting upbringing.
Growing up, my native language was American Sign Language and it is a language primarily based off of English. So, I guess you could say I spoke English and ASL simultaneously. But when I was young, I was often taken care of by my grandmother who only spoke Spanish, so I primarily spoke both ASL and Spanish until I started school.
It’s when I started school that I started to lose my Spanish-speaking abilities and English became my primary language; along with ASL. It was then that I also started losing touch with my hispanic heritage and started immersing myself into the American culture. While doing that and getting older, I started to get scrutinized by my Ecuadorian family members for not knowing as much Spanish and for never really embracing our culture.
It was when I was in high school that I realized I was missing out on a big part of who I was. I always had a mix of friends from different cultures but most of my closest friends were caucasian and while that isn’t a bad thing, I realized that I needed to broaden my horizons in order to really keep in touch with my roots. So that’s step one, realizing you’re out of touch with who you are.
Even though I always identified as being half hispanic, I don’t think I fully embraced my culture until I felt it was too late. There was a point where I could barely speak to my grandparents and that’s when I knew that the next step was learning how to speak the language again. Language is key to every culture, so if you’re in my shoes, I suggest starting to listen to music in whatever language is native to your heritage. It really helped me!
From then, I started to take Spanish classes and when I got to college, even declared my minor in Spanish. Now, I’m not saying that you have to go as far as to do these things, but I would say that step three is immersing yourself into the culture. You can do that by just attending more family parties, making more friends of your ethnicity, or even joining new clubs that will force you to speak the language and learn the culture. By joining Spanish club in high school and going as far as to applying for a semester in Spain, I feel my mind opening up to who I really am and fully understanding the culture.
I used to always boast about how I was mixed but looking back, I knew very little about myself and my culture compared to now. While it is and was more difficult to learn Spanish because my parents only speak ASL, I can say that it is our responsibility, as people of mixed ethnicities, to keep a foot in each of our cultural doors. Only then, when we find our balance, is when we can fully embrace and understand who we are.
Now that I have opened up my mind and am making a conscious effort every day to become more connected with my ethnic roots, I can say I am a strong and proud Latina who loves the south and also embraces every part of her French-creole side.
The world is changing every day, and if it weren’t for our cultures, fashion, food, music and more wouldn’t be where it is today. So, next time you think about yourself, think about your family and where you come from and always make an effort to become connected to to your roots, because it made you who you are today.